Eggplants, aubergines, or brinjals depending on where you are from are all names for the delicious purple fruit that is a popular ingredient in many dishes around the world. While many people find this plant easy to grow and delicious, unfortunately, many bugs and insects also find them delicious.
A wide variety of bugs and insects including aphids, mites, beetles, and caterpillars all love to eat eggplants. Damage may show on the stems, leaves, and fruits while serving as an entry point for rot and disease to negatively impact your crop.
Without further ado – we’re going to identify 7 of these bugs and insects that love to eat eggplants and give you some DIY solutions to prevent your eggplants from going to the insects rather than your kitchen. Let’s get to it!
Aphids Love To Eat Eggplants
Aphids are very common in many gardens and can be found just about anywhere. Aphids can be harmless to many plants, but eggplants are not one of them.
Aphids are small insects that can be with or without wings and are commonly green but can also be black, brown, yellow, or even pink. They are pear-shaped and if you look very close they have two cornicles in the back of their abdomen that look like two small sticks coming off the back of them.
Aphids will feed on leaves, stems, and unopened flower buds which can be a huge problem for growing eggplants.
Recognizing and identifying aphid damage is pretty easy with these common indicators:
- Stunted plant growth along with yellowed, curled leaves.
- Sticky, shiny liquid on the eggplant known as honeydew. This will begin to grow a black mold called sooty mold.
- Small white shed exoskeletons stuck in the honeydew or found around the plant left by growing aphids.
How To Keep Aphids Off Your Eggplants
While aphids might be common everywhere and a pest in many gardens, there are several ways to repel them and introduce natural means to keep their populations down.
- Natural predators are recommended by the University of California IPM Program as a way to reduce aphid populations, namely lady beetles, lacewing larvae, syrphid fly larvae, and small praying mantises. Releasing any of these beneficial insects can help control aphid populations, just make sure that anything you release is allowed under local regulations.
- Applying insecticides is another great way to prevent aphids or treat a population of them on your eggplants and comes in both conventional and organic options. I like to use neem oil such as this bottle of Greenkeeper’s Choice Cold Pressed Neem Oil and use it once every couple of weeks or more depending on the aphid pressure.
- Keeping weeds to a minimum will limit the number of places aphids can hide and find food, and some weeds can support thousands of aphids that will spread out and terrorize your eggplants. Fewer weeds also make it easier to monitor your eggplants and check if any pesky aphids are calling them home.
- Use plants that aphids hate to keep them away from eggplants by planting plants with a smell that aphids can’t stand. Onions, marigolds, catnip, and cilantro are all great companion plants to keep aphids away, or use essential oils of peppermint and clove oil mixed with water to spray on the eggplants if growing other plants is not an option.
As an added defense against aphids, you should check out our article on 11 scents that aphids hate!
Colorado Potato Beetles Will Eat More Than Just Potatoes
Colorado Potato Beetles have a misleading name for two reasons: they are not limited to only colorado and they are not limited to only potato plants and will eat eggplants, tomatoes, and pepper plans as well.
Potato bugs have a yellow head with black spots and black and pale yellow stripes down their back. Their larvae have similar black spots and a red body. Both stages of their life cycle can prove to be destructive to eggplants.
These insects will primarily feed on the leaves of the plants and can reduce the yield or kill plants in the worst-case scenario. These pests can pose a serious problem to your eggplants.
Colorado Potato Beetles can be a very difficult pest to treat due to their hardy nature and ability to quickly build up resistance to insecticides and other pest controls, but preventing and treating these guys is not impossible.
How To Keep Potato Beetles Off Eggplants
Most methods for preventing potato beetles are best employed before they infest your eggplants, but removing an established colony is also possible with a bit of elbow grease.
Here are some methods to prevent potato beetles from destroying eggplants:
- Crop rotations are one of the most effective ways of preventing potato beetles. By not planting eggplants (or potatoes or peppers) in the same area the next growing season, any beetles that overwinter in that area will not have a food source.
- Clear out old plants and hiding spaces to be sure that there are no colonies of adult potato beetles hiding and coming out to feed on your eggplants at night when you can’t see them.
- Hand-picking eggs, larvae, and adults is another very effective way of preventing these pests from becoming a problem. Orange eggs can be crushed as soon as you find them, and any adults or larvae can be dropped into a bucket of soapy water to quickly eliminate them. Using a shop vac or a specially designed insect vacuum is also a great way to remove many pests from eggplants.
- Bacillus thuringiensis is a naturally occurring bacteria that causes disease in many insects and is effective at eliminating Colorado Potato Beetles. BT active sprays work very well if you need to cover a large area of eggplants and will treat several species of insects.
Spider Mites May Call Your Eggplants Home
Spider mites are one of the most common pests affecting eggplants and often occur after the use of pesticides that eliminate their natural predators, or in areas like a greenhouse where their predators are limited anyways
Spider mites breed prolifically having up to 20 generations a year and can spin web-like structures giving them the name spider mites. These webs can cover leaves and cause them to yellow and drop off.
Spider mites are very small measuring at 1/50th of an inch long, and are very difficult to identify without a magnifier. Under magnification, you’ll likely find them to be round orange-yellow insects with two large spots as two-spotted spider mites are the most commonly found on eggplants.
Signs of spider mites on eggplants are pretty apparent and differ from a lot of insects:
- Web-like structures between the leaves and stems of eggplants are a result of the mites feeding on the leaves. Spider mites feed on the sap in the leaves using a piercing-sucking action.
- Bronzing and yellowing leaves are another sign of spider mites as they feed on the leaves and may cause them to drop off the main plant.
- Tiny white or yellow spots are also a sign of spider mites and may give leaves the appearance of stippling or many small dots all over the surface of the leaves.
How To Prevent Spider Mites From Webbing Up Your Eggplants
Spider mites can quickly overrun eggplants if left untreated, but thankfully there are many ways to prevent them from taking over. Spider mites have many natural predators and delicate biology that makes them easy to repel.
- Neem oil is an absolute powerhouse in organic pest control and is effective at preventing and stopping spider mites from destroying your eggplants. Simply mixing a spray according to the manufacturer’s direction and applying it to your plants will serve as a preventative measure or a treatment if needed.
- Predatory insects including ladybugs, thrips, and predatory mites will make short work of spider mites. Be sure to check with local regulations to make sure that the predatory insects will not cause environmental harm.
- DIY garlic spray is another way to prevent spider mites by mixing garlic and water and spraying it every week as a preventative measure. Garlic will not treat a current spider mite infestation but will work to prevent future colonies from forming.
- Overhead irrigation is noted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst as an effective long-term solution to reduce population and reduce the odds that they will form. Overhead irrigation may not be an option for all growing setups but is an effective tool where available but essentially, this is like a good arching sprinkler!
Lygus Bugs Are Nimble And Love Eggplant
Lygus bugs are often mistaken for stink bugs because they have a similar large round shape and can be yellow, brown, or green with a green or yellow triangle on their backs. These insects are larger than many of the other pests on this list and make identification much easier.
Lygus bugs prefer to feed on other plants over eggplants but will choose to feed on eggplants when other food is scarce.
Identification of these bugs on eggplants is done in two primary ways:
- Visual identification of the insects by spotting them crawling on or around our eggplants. Finding a beetle-like bug with a triangle on its back is likely to be a sign of Lygus bugs infesting your crops.
- Dropped flowers and fruits from the eggplants are another telltale sign of Lygus bugs due to how they feed. Relying on a phytotoxin injected into the plants, specifically flowering parts and the fruits that later results in the plant aborting these affected areas. Finding fruit or flower buds on the ground is a bad sign and may mean that Lygus bugs are the cause.
Repelling Lygus Bugs Is A Tricky Task
Since Lygus bugs are very nimble and can cover large distances in a short amount of time, they are a difficult pest to prevent. Often these buggers may come out of seemingly nowhere and begin to destroy eggplants without much warning.
By taking some preventative measures and paying close attention to the health of your plants you can prevent any problems caused by Lygus bugs. Here are some ideas for prevention:
- Weed control is a great place to start to prevent Lygus bugs from being a problem by limiting their hiding spaces and other food sources around your eggplant crops. Weed control will also help your eggplants grow and stay healthier, making them more resistant to damage from Lygus bugs.
- Trap crops including cowpeas, lima beans, and alfalfa have all been shown to be effective when planted around a field of plants to be defended from Lygus bugs. Planting these trap crops near or around eggplants may be one way to stop Lygus bugs who love to eat eggplants, but love to eat these other plants more.
- Sticky traps are a risky last resort for pest control and are effective against Lygus bugs as well as a large array of other animals. Sticky traps placed around eggplants will catch Lygus bugs but are not recommended because they will indiscriminately catch any small mammals or reptiles that find them, and must be checked often to make sure they have not caught anything that is not a pest.
Olive oil is effective at removing the stickiness of these traps and freeing trapped animals.
Silverleaf Whitefly Love To Eat Eggplants
Silverleaf whiteflies are not the only species of whitefly that may be attracted to your eggplants but they are the most common and the treatment and signs of most species are similar enough.
Silverleaf whiteflies are very similar in the way they damage eggplants to aphids, leaving a honeydew residue on the leaves of the plants and causing sooty mold. Many of the signs of aphids may also be a sign of whiteflies including:
- Stunted plant growth along with yellowed, curled leaves. Plants will have lower photosynthetic capacities as a result of honeydew and will produce less energy going to the eggplant fruits.
- Sticky, shiny liquid on the eggplant known as honeydew and will grow sooty mold as a result.
- Tiny white flying insects will fly around if the leaves they are resting on are disturbed in any way.
- Masses of tiny white insects on the undersides of leaves can include eggs, larvae, and adult white flies all stay on the bottom of leaves for safety.
Preventing Silverleaf Whiteflies Is Pretty Easy!
Thankfully preventing Silverleaf whiteflies is straightforward for most gardeners with some planning. Many pest management strategies are effective for many different insects including whiteflies, and some strategies you may already be implementing may be effective against them.
Here are some whitefly prevention tips that you can use to keep your eggplants free of this pest:
- Silver mulch is one of the methods to use early in the season that will discourage Silverleaf whiteflies on top of a bunch of different insects from choosing your garden as their home. Both silver-colored and aluminum mulches will reflect light and make it much more difficult for whiteflies to land and find an ideal host plant.
- Insecticide sprays and soaps should be used sparingly as they can scare away some natural predators of whiteflies who help control populations, but if the whiteflies are out of control may be necessary. Mixing an insecticidal soap according to directions is important because too strong of soap can burn your plants, or you can use a pre-mixed option, Garden Safe Insecticidal Soap is a good option for one that is ready to use right out of the box.
For more information on what sprays work best, you should read our article on the 9 best whitefly sprays.
- Plain ol’ water might be enough to knock off adult whiteflies as well as eggs and nymphs. Using a spray bottle or hose to spray off plants will help with whiteflies and cause them to look elsewhere for residence, and can deter a lot of insects at almost no cost or effort to you.
Also – I recommend checking out our guide on the scents that whiteflies hate as well!
Cabbage Loopers, The Eggplant Loving Caterpillars
Cabbage loopers are green caterpillars with a white stripe going down their body that will pupate and turn into a cabbage looper moth which is brown and camouflage to look like bark. The moths themselves are not harmful to eggplant crops, and thankfully the caterpillars themselves are usually not a huge threat to eggplants.
Damage to eggplants caused by cabbage loopers is what you would expect from any species of caterpillars:
- Noticeable foliage damage is the most prominent sign of cabbage loopers eating eggplants, and usually will not cause crop-stopping damage.
- Silk cocoons are another possible sign of cabbage looper or any other species of caterpillar that may be calling your eggplants home but cabbage loopers are the most likely culprit.
How To Prevent Cabbage Loopers From Eating Eggplants
Thankfully while cabbage loopers love to eat eggplants, they often do not pose enough of a threat to need action taken against them. Cabbage loopers often will not be found near eggplants in large quantities, limiting the amount of damage they do.
Cabbage loopers have many natural parasites that will eliminate them for you, including parasites that affect the eggs such as Trichogramma pretiosum and many different larval parasites. This makes preventing cabbage loopers very easy for the home gardener:
- Encourage a healthy microbiome in your soil to build up natural predators of cabbage loopers. Healthy colonies of natural bacteria and microorganisms are likely to carry several natural parasites that will take care of any cabbage loopers for you. Any that do make it to a larval stage and beyond are unlikely to cause significant damage to your eggplants, but monitor them for signs of damage to make sure.
- Remove any cabbage loopers by hand (use a glove) if you find any caterpillars eating the leaves of your eggplants. Cabbage loopers are much larger than most other pests and this makes them incredibly easy to spot from a distance and remove. Chances are there will not be too many of them, making removal a breeze.
Hornworms Are A Much More Destructive Caterpillar To Eggplants
While cabbage loopers can do some minor damage to your eggplants, hornworms often come with much larger populations that will do some real damage to your eggplant crops.
Hornworms are fairly large caterpillars with, as their name suggests, protruding horns. The horn is at the back end of the caterpillar unlike a traditional horn, and the caterpillar’s body is green with white stripes.
Recognizing hornworm damage is similar to cabbage looper or other caterpillar damage but can be more extensive:
- Varying degrees of defoliation is one sign of hornworms and can vary from only a couple of leaves to entire plants being defoliated.
- Fruit damage is also common with hornworms if your eggplants are fruiting and can range from scars in the fruit to destroying the crop.
Hornworms are large and easy to spot but are only in the larval stage for 3 or 4 weeks before burrowing in the ground to pupate. This can give them all the time they need to decimate an entire eggplant population if left unchecked.
Use Natural Or Labor Intensive Strategies To Keep Hornworms Away
Thankfully hornworms are like other species of caterpillars and have many natural population-controlling parasites and are very susceptible to pesticides.
Some easy ways to control hornworm populations are to:
- Rotate crops every season so that when hornworm moths come out the next season, they will look for somewhere else to lay their eggs that have a better food source. Crop rotations in general are a great way to prevent pest populations from building up, and other problems in the soil and should be a part of your arsenal.
- Removing any hornworms by hand when spotted is usually enough for most fields and the Clemson Cooperative Extension makes special note that the horn is harmless, and only a few individuals can cause massive amounts of defoliation if left unchecked.
- Disking after harvest is a labor-intensive method depending on the equipment you have available but will disturb and destroy pupated hornworms that are waiting for the next season to come out and wreak havoc on your eggplants and other crops.
- Using pesticides will work very well as well, and depending on the practices you use both conventional and organic pesticides will do the trick.
Thanks For Reading!
Hopefully, these 7 bugs and insects helped you understand some of the threats that your eggplants face, and how to prevent them from destroying your plants!
Many of them are easy to prevent and have overlapping control methods, which is great to save you time and avoid any unnecessary headaches during the gardening season.
Now for a quick recap.
Here are the 7 bugs and insects that love eating eggplants:
- Colorado Potato Beetles
- Spider Mites
- Lygus Bugs
- Silverleaf Whiteflies
- Cabbage Loopers
We hope you have a happy and plentiful eggplant harvest!
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Srinivasan, R. (2009). Insect and mite pests on eggplant: A field guide for Identification and Management. AVRDC – the World Vegetable Center.
Sujayanand, G. K., Sharma, R. K., Shankarganesh, K., Saha, S., & Tomar, R. S. (2015). Crop diversification for sustainable insect pest management in eggplant. Florida Entomologist, 98(1), 305–314.